Now, some of my loyal few (even, perhaps, a family member!) may see the topic of this week's Top 5 list and opt to skip it. I have been mocked, at times, though most often tolerated, for my unabashed, life-long love for George Strait. For whatever reason, my dad, who actually has quite the diverse taste in music, has never been the biggest traditional country music fan. He appreciates old-timers like Waylon Jennings, but he is not much for the billboard leaders of today. Though he has made allowances for the recent influx of "Texas country", which is very different than typical Nashville fare. I, however, love country music, and adore no one more than George Strait. His songs were woven throughout my life, from a very early age. My earliest memory is probably of "Baby Blue"-ever the romantic, one of my BFF's Wendy and I used to discuss how the song was for us. Because we had baby blue eyes of course. I was probably nine or ten during these discussions, just so you know.
Then, as I grew older, I got to experience those angst-y first dances, where I would sit anxious and nervous as the music played, knowing full well that I didn't know how to two-step, but wishing desperately that someone would ask me to anyway. There were always a a few George Strait classics played; almost inevitably "The Cowboy Rides Away" would be the final dance. I should mention that these dances weren't at school, but took place in Fort Davis for 4th of July, or in Marfa for the Marfa Lights Festival. They were always on the street, which was cleared out and usually encircled with bales of hay or lawn chairs so that people could sit and enjoy the dancing. All the adults were great dancers-to me, they seemed like seasoned professionals, whirling and spinning.
I was in seventh grade when Pure Country came out-my BFF Julie and I were overwhelmed for excitement for the video to come out. Of course, there was no movie theater within 100 miles, and I am almost certain that neither of us made a big trip to El Paso to see it. I cannot COUNT how many times we listened to "I Cross My Heart", or giggled innocently at the suggestive nature of "Overnight Male" or got pumped up by the opening strains of "Heartland." And despite the cheese factor of the movie, you can bet that we watched it 100's of times, crying at all the romantic scenes each time.
Julie and I believed we were George's biggest fans. We proudly wore our concert t-shirts throughout junior high and high school, though neither of us had ever been to one. We eagerly devoured information on Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos (now Texas State), because that's where George went. Our theme song was "You Know Me Better Than That", which we joyously sang together every few days. As George is quite prolific, producing albums at a regular, predictable rate, Julie and I always purchased them together. We weren't exactly alone in our obsession, but not everyone shared our deep appreciation.
My freshman year of college, I dragged my friend Bailey with me to see George in concert in Clemson, SC. That was back when George went on tour with a huge crowd of people, calling it a festival, so it was really an all-day thing. We were positively exhausted by the time he finally came on, but all the fatigue faded away the minute he started playing. George isn't a big showman, and there weren't any fancy lights or smoke and mirrors. Just Jorge Derecho (yes, we gave him this lame nickname in high school when we learned a few Spanish words) and his guitar, wearing Wranglers, boots, and a crisply ironed Brushpopper shirt. He played all the favorites, all the new hits, and even a more obscure tune, which happens to be on my list today.
As my Francis mantra states, "I always know what I'm getting, and I'm always pleased." That is exactly why I love George so much. He has a formula that works, and he doesn't try to be anything that he's not. Of course, that predictability and un-spontaneous nature is exactly why not everyone loves him the way I do. It is comforting, though, one must admit, to have a few things that you can count on.
I came up with my George Strait-inspired list because of a special tonight on CBS: The ACM Artist of the Decade All-Star Concert, the artist in question being, of course, George Strait. Even if you don't love him, or if you loathe country music, you have to admire a guy who has managed to reap such tremendous success, even after 25 years.
5. Why Not Now, One Step at a Time. This album is one of my favorites, loaded with great songs. While this one wasn't a top 10 hit, I seem to remember it had some significance for me in the last few months of high school.
4. Amarillo by Morning, Strait from the Heart. I had to include a fond memory from all those dances! By the way, two-stepping really isn't that difficult, and no one should shy away from dancing due to a lack of a confidence! Lesson learned from George Strait!
3. Run, The Road Less Traveled. This song was tremendously popular, probably because it's a bit more mainstream. It's a real country ballad, and I admit to getting a little swept up every time I listen to it.
2. Lead On, Lead On. There is something so sweet and heartwrenching about this song. "She said I had a love once, but he just up and left me; I said I bet it broke your heart...I had a love once too, but I acted like a fool, oh what I'd give, to be back in her arms..." Well, I know you can't REALLY get the idea from those lyrics, but if you heard it, I'd bet you could understand why I love it so.
1. Nobody in His Right Mind Would've Left Her, #7. It's my all-time favorite. I can't exactly explain why, but I think it might just be its comforting familiarity.